13 May 2013

The Tall Book

I still own, after 68 years, the first book that I remember, and in that memory I am in my crib refusing to be settled down for sleep if I don't have my book with me. The front cover is gone, and parts of many pages, but my favorite pictures survive.  The Tall Book -- this one is Mother Goose, and there are other Tall Books of fairy stories, of make-believe, of nursery tales, of Christmas -- was published in 1942, republished ever since. If you google on "the tall book" you can find an infinite number of original copies to buy, from $4.25 to $110 or so, as well as other books of the same name but not of the same character.

The artist, Feodor Rojankovsky, had only moved to the United States from Russia, by way of France, in 1941.   In my early years I had a stack of books illustrated by Rojankovsky.  He gave me -- and how many other children? -- the idea of an artist's style, the immediate sense of comfort and familiarity.  His images combine a quality I later learned to recognize as "European" with something else that could only be "American."  Like this boy who prepared me to meet Huckleberry Finn.  If his sweater was not American in 1942, his ears and sunburn certainly were.

It was only when I was reading The Tall Book to one of my own children that I recognized Humpty-Dumpty and could admire the slyness of the artist, or the publishers, who chose to publish this sequence in 1942.  

This lovely boy could be drawn from my grandson, Ryan:

A few more:

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. I remember the Humpty Dumpty pictures, but not the others.


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